Category Archives: Bike bits - Page 2

Second sabbatical tour planning

So with less than a week to go before my next Sabbatical Tour I have been working on more detailed plans.

Some of the plans are currently in flux. Due to changing family circumstances what happens after I have been to Iona is currently uncertain. It looks likely that I’ll be joined by Jane and Stephen with the caravan and we will travel across Scotland together. Hopefully that will include some things, like climbing Ben Nevis, that are still on the bucket list that I had not expected to be doing this time.

So I’m currently expected to cycle 2 out of 3 legs (1: Leicester to Iona and 3: Lindisfarne to Leicester) with some day rides between.

I’ve now planned the route in full detail to get to Iona. Irritatingly Strava kept thinking the A6 was a good route which meant a fair bit of manual work to correct. I’ve found campsites as well, including checking I’ll be allowed to stay on a site that says “No single sex bookings” (presumably not many single people will qualify).

Next I need to sort out my Bike for Life (I think it does deserve a wash but mainly need to swap tyres to my Marathon Plus road tyres – the rear WTB Nano is almost completely worn out) and work out what/how I’ll carry stuff. I have 3 challenges with that.

  • I’m planning to use a larger tent (sadly we have nothing between a tiny 1 man tent and a small 3 man tent). I want to be a bit more comfortable and warmer if the weather is bad. The Trekkertent Stealth 1 is amazingly light and small to carry, but it is draughty which makes it cold, and if it is raining when you want to get dressed or eat it is not a comfortable choice.
  • My comfy and tiny Exped Synmat sleeping mat is off to be repaired/replaced. If I don’t get it back in time then the alternative that I have is much bulkier.
  • Just been reading the info from Iona and I really need to take my walking boots. Gulp. They are bulky and while as boots go they are light for cycle touring they are still pretty heavy.

So I am going to be much stricter on not carrying much in the way of spare food and I think I might even leave my coffee kit at home (yes I know, shock horror. But with the extra weight of tent, potentially sleeping mat and boots I need to cut down).

As I’m taking my walking boots I’ve been wondering whether to cut out either my trainers or my crocs. The crocs are light but bulky and are really useful on campsites. However, with a tent I can sit up in it is easier to use trainers than with the stealth. I think the trainers will be much more useful for a week on Iona than the crocs.

I’m hoping there will be a washing machine at Iona Abbey. If so I’ll only take “normal” clothes for a couple of days worth and just wash them. That will be a big saving over my last trip.

As this does not include any off road adventures like The Welsh Ride Thing. I’m going to cut down on the Bikepacking bags that I use. So no frame bag and no fuel pod. Possibly 1 stem cell. On the front I’ll use my full set from Wildcat Gear (Mountain Lion for the Tent, Lioness for electronic gadgets and wallet, Tomcat for tools and spares) along with my Carradry front panniers. Depending on what happens with the sleeping mat I might not use the Wildcat Gear Tiger for my sleeping bag and instead just put it on top of the rear rack.

One key lesson is to rethink how I use the rear pockets on my rear Carradry panniers. The zips leak but the pockets don’t so you get a puddle at the bottom of the pocket everytime it rains. I will still use one for my lock (but remember to put it in with the U at the bottom and the lock at the top). Not sure about the other but anything it it will have to be in an Exped drybag.

Anyway the routes on Strava are:

  • Leicester to Ardrossan. Camping stops
    • just south of Macclesfield (72 miles)
    • between Preston and Lancaster (73 miles)
    • just south of Penrith (70 miles)
    • West of Dumfries (66 miles)
    • North side of Prestwick (59 miles)
  • Arran Camping stop
    • Lochranza campsite (32 miles and 1 ferry)
  • Arran to Oban camping stop
    • Just south of Oban (1 ferry and 61 miles)
  • Crossing Mull with camping stop on Iona
    • Iona campsite (after 2 ferries and about 37 miles)

As before I’ll be using my Satellite tracker once I start riding if you want to know where I’m at. I’ll have my phone and tablet for facebook, twitter and blogging. To try to alleviate battery life as a concern I’m carrying two Anker Astro batteries (an E4 13,000mAh and an E6 20800mAh) and my Anker mains charger that can charge upto 5 devices at a time. But I do have a lot of usb devices to keep charged:

  • Phone
  • Garmin 1,000
  • Nexus 7 tablet
  • Front and rear exposure flare lights (I like to have them flashing when on busy roads)
  • Bluetooth keyboard
  • Kindle

One thing I will be more careful about is putting my tablet and phone in airplane mode more often.

No doubt like last time some of this will change when I discover it won’t all fit 🙂


In praise of the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative

Just over a year ago I bought a Whyte Suffolk from the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative in Sheffield. On Tuesday evening during my first ever time trial a front spoke broke. Today I took the bike back to the shop and as always the staff were exceptional. Helpful, interested, knowledgeable – in fact everything you want in any shop.

They replaced the spoke and sorted out the weak braking on the rear (new pads, new cable and bleed the hydraulic).

I also bought some clothing to replace things I have worn out during the first half of my sabbatical.

Can’t recommend them highly enough as a bike shop.


Bike for Life post sabbatical tour 1 adjustments

Now I’m back from my first Sabbatical Tour it is time to adjust my Bike for Life and other equipment for the next, longer tour in just under 3 weeks time.

The next tour is in 3 main parts:

  • Leicester to Iona which is about 435 miles
  • Iona to Lindisfarne which is about 255 miles
  • Lindisfarne to Leicester which is about 280 miles

For a total of about 970 miles (plus some riding around Lindisfarne will increase it to just over 1,000 miles.

Compared to my earlier tour I won’t be doing anything like the Welsh Ride Thing (watch the great video by Ian Barrington);

So I will be switching from the WTB Nano tyres (no punctures so far this sabbatical!), which were pretty good on road and brilliant off road as the rear in particular is nearly completely worn out, back to my Schwalbe Marathon Plus (which are fine for off road Sustrans routes as well as the on-road stuff).

Wondering about the mudguards. Yes they keep the bike clean and are essential (IMHO) for general transport use. But I’ll be wearing cycle specific clothing and the reduced weight and hassle is attractive on a long ride.

I’ll make a few small luggage changes as well to simplify things as I won’t be combining bike packing with road touring. So no Wildcat frame bag, no Alkit stem cell or fuel tank. Possibly swap the Wildcat Tiger seatpost holder for a bag on top of the rack. Probably a smaller bag under the handlebar than the Alkit Gourdon 20 litre rucksack (put that on the back rack instead?).

Again as I won’t be bike packing I think I’ll swap the Stealth 1 tent for one of our slightly larger tents.

I’ll also be taking less clothing and trying to remember to carry less food and buy smaller amounts more frequently.

I need to sort out a replacement sleeping mat after the failure of my Exped.


That should keep me busy for a while.



Bike sorted, just the packing left

Ok a bit more progress.

  • Tyres swapped from Schwalbe Marathon Plus (great for road and track use – not for mountain biking) to WTB Nano (ok on road, good for bikepacking on the Welsh Ride Thing)
  • Mudguards removed (probably don’t fit with the WTB Nano and anyway I don’t want to have to spend the time removing them at the start of the Welsh Ride Thing)
  • Pedals swapped from everyday flat to rather old Shimano PD-A520 pedals (SPD clip one side, flat the other). Also switched my Specialized MTB shoes from the clips for Frog pedals to SPD clips.
  • Done a quick check that a) nothing is coming loose and b) that I have the right set of allen, torx and spanners for the trip.

Can’t avoid the haircut and clothes packing much longer 😉


Carradice Carradry panniers upgrades

As I prepare to go out the door for my sabbatical retreat I have just completed some upgrades on my Carradice Carradry panniers.

It does not fix the way they clip onto the racks. I take comfort from the fact that as I find the click fittings very hard to undo so would a thief.

It does not fix the squeak from the plastic backing to the rack. Maybe gluing something onto the plastic face would help.

It does fix 2 things:

  • The pop rivets that hold the metal bar for the clips onto the bag itself will break. I have had about 10 rivets break so far (in 2.5 years). The solution is to replace the rivets with M5 bolts and use a big penny washer on the inside so you don’t pull through the corex lining. Never had one of these fail.
  • The zip pulls on the pockets of the rear panniers break. So cut off the stub and replace it with cord. Much easier to use and won’t break.

Still nothing like as robust or convenient as Ortlieb Classics but stronger material than Ortlieb Plus panniers.


Shand Stoater in full Bikepacking mode

So here is my Bike for Life in full Bikepacking mode complete with lots of mud from last nights ride in Swithland Wood (now cleaned off I hasten to add).





I was delighted with the handling of my bike in this off road loaded mode. It was comfortable, stable and fun to ride. However, the only problem with off road riding is that my nice clean bike got all muddy. Fortunately with belt drive, Rohloff hub gears and disc brakes getting it clean is a doddle!


3.6kg weight saving in Bike for Life off-road conversion

I’m converting my Bike for Life into off road mode for the Ford Fiesta bikepacking winter event on the 10th and 11th of January.

So far I have reduced the weight of the bike by over 3.6kg from it’s general transportation setup. That comes from

  • Switch from Brooks B17 to Charge Spoon saddle (287g saving) [mainly because I don’t want to spoil the B17 by getting it too wet]
  • Removed the kickstand (390g saving)
  • Removed the front pannier rack (495g saving)
  • Removed the rear rack with light (895g saving)
  • Removed the front mudguard with mud flap (315g saving)
  • Removed the rear mudguard with mud flap (384g saving)
  • Various bolts & washers for the above (18g saving)
  • Swap front tyre from Schwalbe Marathon Plus (700c x 40) to WTB Nano 700c x 40 (400g saving)
  • Swap rear tyre from Schwalbe Marathon Plus (700c x 40) to WTB Nano 700c x 40 (460g saving)

Although this is good news and will help me get up the steep off road Welsh tracks I’m not tempted to keep any of these off the bike when I go back to using it for everyday use. While heavy they make the bike significantly more practical as transport.


Another Bivy Test

Going to do another Bivy test in the garden tonight as it is a cold night (currently about zero degrees according to my Garmin).

This time I am making it a bit more realistic by starting outside with everything packed as if I have just taken it off my bike. In the morning I’ll pack it all away again before coming inside.


So these are the bags I intend to use for off road Bike packing (ie The Winter Event and The Welsh Ride Thing). They all fit on my Bike for Life without needing any racks. They will also be used for my Sabbatical tours but with added panniers for extra clothing as you can’t turn up for a residential week with just one cycling specific outfit and nothing else 😉

The top yellow bag (20 litre Alpkit Airlok XTra Dual drybag) will be under my handlebars held in a WildcatGear Mountain Lion harness. It contains my Tarp (Alpkit Rig 7), Sleeping Pag (Exped SynMat UL 7 LW), Exped Pillow/Pump, Bivy Bag (Borah Gear Snowyside) and thermal top and bottom for sleeping in. The bag isn’t full.

The bottom yellow bag (an Alpkit XTra Tapered drybag) will be carried behind the saddle in a WildcatGear Tiger. It contains my Sestrals Sleeping Quilt.

The bottom black bag is my WildcatGear Ocelot frame bag. At the moment it is not very full containing a 2 tarp pole set, pegs, cord for guys, lamp and headlamp.

The right hand bag is a WildcatGear Lioness with phone, wallet, kindle, phone recharging battery, usb cable and Nexus 7 tablet.

When riding I’ll also have an Alpkit Stem Cell for stove and pot plus a Medium Fuel Pod for snacks.

You can see my Garmin which is just checking the temperature (off the ground as it sits on the Lioness Bag). At the moment is says 1 degree Celsius. Based on previous nights I expect to be ok with this to a few degrees below zero, by adding a jacket I expect to be ok to at least -5.

My current expectation is the the most tricky part of the whole process will be deflating and putting away the Exped Sleeping mat. It took me a while to get it packed last time and that was in the house.


More sabbatical plans

I’ve been experimenting with possible Sabbatical plans a little based on the April 2015 dates for St Beunos and the Welsh Ride Thing on 2/3/4 May. I’m still waiting for the Iona Abbey dates to come out and the St Beunos dates for May.

One possibility itinerary is:

  • Stage 1: Syston to St Beuno’s 2 days 136 miles
  • 8 day Individually guided retreat at St Beuno’s
  • Stage 2: St Beunos to Bristol 3 days 175 miles
  • 1 day to visit the Bespoked: The UK Handmade Bicycle Show – arriving on my UK Handmade Bicycle 🙂
  • Stage 3: Bristol to Cardiff 2 days a minimum of 50 miles
  • Spend some time with Son, Daughter-in-law and grandson
  • Stage 4: Cardiff to start of the Welsh Ride Thing at Forest Freeride 3 days 100 miles
  • Do the Welsh Ride Thing 3 days and no idea how many miles, I guess I’d be aiming for about 150?
  • Stage 5: Forest Freeride to Iona via Arran 11 days about 430 miles (4 ferrys)
  • Iona Abbey for 7 day course
  • Stage 6: Iona to Lindisfarne 6 days 265 miles (2 ferrys)
  • Quiet camp at Lindisfarne 7 day
  • Stage 7: Lindisfarne to Syston 5 days 290 miles

To give maximum flexibility I now plan to wildcamp where I can on the various stages. Otherwise I’ll use camp site stops (after all wildcamping is not officially allowed in England).

So far this looks like about 1,500 miles of cylcing although once I tweak the routes to be on quieter roads I expect that to increase a bit (which is why I have allowed so much time for the stages).

All this will be on my Bike for Life which will need to undergo a bit of a transformation part way through in order to be used off road for the Welsh Ride Thing. I’ll need to sort out off road tyres and remove the racks & mudguards just for that.


Bikepacking for on road riding and flexibility

My understanding is the Bikepacking is a new(ish) term for Mountain Bike touring without racks. Generally kit is carried in frame bags and in dry bags hung from the saddle and from the handlebar. Some people use a rucksack as well.

In recent months I have been getting a number of British Made Bike packing bags. I used some on the Epworth Pilgrimage and others on my long ride last weekend to and from Synod in Milton Keynes. My full collection of Bikepacking bags is now:

When touring in bikepacking style the expectation is that you will be doing very lightweight camping due to the limited volume of the bags. That means a Bivvy Bag and/or Tarp or a very lightweight tent. It means minimal cooking and accepting being very smelly 😉

However, I’m using the bags in other ways too.

I have not fitted racks to my Whyte Road Bike (and do not want to) and despite these bags being originally conceived for Mountain Bikes they work really well on my road bike. They make the bike fast and convenient for long rides where I need to carry a change of clothing (such as to Synod) or more food (eg long rides when you won’t pass many open shops). Also they will allow me to use the road bike for lightweight overnight stops, a road bike version of Bikepacking.

I’m also looking at using them for my sabbatical. That is now looking at about 1,500 miles in 7 segments totalling 32 days. Plus 30 days on retreats, visiting etc. Also I’m hoping to add the Welsh Ride Thing. As the ride will include The Welsh Ride Thing I will need this bags for their originally designed purpose. However, the rest of the time they will be useful combined with my panniers as a neat way taking bulky stuff (tent, sleeping bag) leaving more space for the extra clothing I’ll need for the retreats etc. They also make stuff like food easily accessible while riding.


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